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"The Boat Races of Kerala are not just competition or even events, rather they are a part of Kerala's culture. Travel to Kerala and be a part of enthusiasm and spirit that seem to dominate the atmosphere during these boat races."
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Guide to Kerala Snake Boat Races 2014

Boat Race,  Kerala
Boat Race - Kerala

Boat Races (Vallamkali) - yet another unique attraction of Kerala leaves a number of people in a state of delightful awe. The Boat Races are organized in the backwaters of Kerala which are known to provide a relaxation to body and soul because of their scenic beauty and tranquility. However, during Boat Races, the tranquility gives way to jubilation and excitement. No one is quiet, neither the human beings nor the water.

The races are usually held in boats of various shapes and sizes. Prominent types of boat that take part in these races include Churulan Vallam, Iruttukuthy Vallam, Odi Vallam, Veppu Vallam (Vaipu Vallam), Vadakkanody Vallam, Kochu Vallam. However, it is Chundan Vallam (snake boat) that hogs much of the attention because of its attractive shape and massive size. It is the immense popularity of these boats in the race that has forced a whole lot of people to call it a Snake Boat Race altogether.

Today tourists coming to Kerala look forward to witness the magnificent boat races which go on even if it rains. .

Champakulam Moolam Boat Race

Location - Alappuzha
Time - August/September

This is counted as the oldest boat race of Kerala. The legend behind this race states that the king of Chempakasseri, Maharaja Devanarayana, as guided by his guru, ordered the construction of a Krishna Temple at Ambalappuzha. However, a little before the installation, it was found out that the idol was damaged. The idol was declared inauspicious for the temple and the king was hugely upset over the sudden development. The ministers of his court advised him to send some men to bring down the idol of Shree Krishna from the the Karikulam Temple in Kurichi. The king followed the advice. After successful completion of their work, the ministers, on their way back to halted at Champakulam to spend the night. In the morning, boats from the entire region sailed to escort the idol to the temple amidst colourful procession. The idol was installed on time and with much fanfare.

Today, the Champakulam Moolam Boat Race recreates the entire legend. Devotional and enthusiastic voices rent the air while the procession is on. The race itself is organized on river Pampa for various categories.

Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali

Location - Pathanamthitta (Near Chengannur, Kerala)
Time - September

The story of Aranmula Boat Race goes that a Brahmin once pledged to feed one pilgrim a day. Lord Shree Krishna, pleased by his dedication, appeared himself one day. Overwhelmed, the Brahmin offered 51 measures of rice and all the provisions of Thiruvona Sadya (Onam afternoon feast) to be held at the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. However, enemies from other village became aware of it and tried to destroy the provisions. At this point of time, the Brahmin's own villagers came to his rescue on snake boats and assisted him to carry his offering on large snake boats, palliyodam.

The Aranmula Boat Race is a mark of respect to this legend that symbolises devotion, loyalty as well as bravery. The event is held for two days wherein the first day sees a huge effigy of Lord Krishna being taken out in a colourful procession. The next day, the oarsmen and singers form groups and participate in the actual race in the afternoon.

Nehru Trophy Boat Race

Location - Alappuzha
Time - Second Saturday of August

The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held every year on the second Saturday of the month of August. The race derives its name from the first Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru who visited Kerala in the year 1952. The people of Kerala welcomed him with all grandeur and he was escorted amidst snake boats. The tremendously exciting feeling that the Prime Minister experienced while he was sailing on the snake boat inspired him to institute a trophy for the winning team.

Since then the boat race has become a major attraction of Alappuzha. Around 16 snake boats along with numerous other smaller boats participate in the race to win the coveted silver trophy on which is inscribed, "To the winner of the boat-race which is a unique feature of community life in Travancore-Cochin". Races for various categories are held including a separate one for women. The extravaganza of race is witnessed by thousands of Keralites and tourists from other parts of India and abroad.

Nehru Trophy Boat Race 2007
Nehru Trophy Boat Race 2008

Payippad Jalotsavam

Location - Payippad Lake (Near Alappuzha)
Time - August/September

Payippad Jalotsavam pays tribute to yet another legend of Kerala. It is believed that the people of Haripad once decided to build a temple dedicated to Lord Ayappa, however the completion of the temple, the villagers had a vision that asked them to instal a deity of Sri Subramanya Swami in the temple. The villagers were guided to the a whirlpool in Kayamkulam Lake where they were to find the idol. The people abided by the directions given to them in the divine vision and brought back the Subramanyam Virgah (idol) in a boat with complete respect due to it.

The Payippad Jalotsavam reminds Keralites of the legend every year starting from fourth Onam day and continues for three days. It is held on the Payippad Lake which is 35 km from Alappuzha.

Indira Gandhi Boat Race

Location - Kochi
Time - Last week of December

This Boat Race in the backwaters of Kochi is organized in the last week of December in the memory of the former Prime Minister of India, Late Mrs Indira Gandhi. The race is meant to encourage tourism in Kerala by highlighting the famous boat races all the more. The exhilaration felt while watching this race on the Ernakulam Lake is completely singular.

Other Kerala Boat Races

  • ATDC Boat Race - Alappuzha,
  • Rajiv Gandhi Boat Race - Pulinkunnu
  • Neerettupuram Boat Race - Alappuzha
  • Kumarakom Boat Race - Kumarakom
  • Karuvatta Boat Race
  • Kavanattinkara Boat Race
  • Kumarakom Arpookara Vanitha Jalamela
  • Kottayam Mahatma Boat Race - Mannar
  • Thazhathangadi Boat Race -Kottayam
  • Kottapuram Boat Race - Kodungallur
  • Kumaranasan Smaraka Jalotsavam - Pallana


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